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Fission and fusion of parties in Estonia, 1987-1999


We provide a schematic history of contemporary Estonian political parties, 1987-99, in which we specify dates of party origin and subsequent fissions and fusions of some fifty movements and parties, and we briefly discuss some important factors and features in party formation. Our analysis begins with the seminal 1987-94 period that marked the rebirth of Estonian democracy, with an extension to two subsequent parliamentary elections (1995 and 1999). We argue that the early phase of Estonian party competition generally exemplifies what we call "kaleidoscopic parties": parties that form around leaders rather than durable issues and lack any organizational permanency or any real voter attachment. However, the rate of formation of new groups has decreased, and the major parties may be becoming more stable than in the past. While there is some evidence of a left-right patterning now emerging in the political debate in Estonia, the parties have not aligned themselves along such a left-right continuum.

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